I got hit by a car. What brings you to the Sports section?
A few months ago I saw a beautiful bird, one once thought flightless by many, finally liftoff. He then fell into formation alongside other birds whose ascent was likely also doubted.
- Former Simon Gratz football star takes memory of slain friend to Green Bay Packers training camp
- Frankford football coach opens his locker room on Friday nights so his players are safe from gun violence
- Former Martin Luther King lineman Ojay Harris, a winner with autism, is poised to play football at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology
Ojay Harris, the Martin Luther King High football player who became a coach and an inspiration, graduated on May 31.
The Harris family invited me to the ceremony. Also in attendance was NFL Films, which has been working on a feature about Harris, who was diagnosed with autism in third grade.
The 6-foot-4, 310-pound lineman left Philadelphia Wednesday morning to play football at Thaddeus Stevens College in Lancaster.
His father, Shannon Harris, once told me that football made his son “blossom.”
Watching the commencement ceremony unfold, I thought about all the other ways in which sports — in a city obsessed with them — have changed lives in and around our city.
How do we tell those stories?
The Inquirer is starting a podcast to show the power of sports and how they have changed lives in our area. And we need your help.
Think Humans of New York, the internationally acclaimed photographic series, but with a Philadelphia-area, sports-related twist.
Stories from every age and level of athletics will be welcomed.
But to launch the Heart of the City Philly podcast, I need to hear from you directly.
And don’t worry. Your story doesn’t need to be dramatic or tragic. It need only be authentic and important to you.
If all that applies, I have no doubt your story will resonate with and inspire people in the area. And who couldn’t use a little inspiration these days?
Maybe you were an awful athlete growing up, but watching sports with a family member shaped your life.
Maybe you didn’t have that family member, but became that family member for your own children or for someone else.
Or maybe you or someone you know faced an obstacle in your life that a sport, either watching or playing, helped you overcome.
Or maybe you lost your sport like I did, but found it again in a different way.
My, dad, Fred Carter, played and coached in the NBA.
I affectionately call him “Pops.” Others know him as “Mad Dog,” the nickname he earned after, as a rookie with the Baltimore Bullets in 1969, he bit a teammate on the shoulder during a drill because, well, he was just that desperate to make an NBA roster.
He grew up in North Philly, the son of an alcoholic and abusive father and a strong-willed, hard-working, loving, and dedicated mother.
Basketball is what helped him escape the cycle of violence, poverty, and despair that sadly still plagues sections of the city, causing generations upon generations to spiral hopelessly, endlessly.
Drafted by the Bullets (No. 43 overall), Pops played in the league until 1977 (Bullets, Sixers, Bucks).
Later, he coached NBA greats Michael Jordan (assistant coach, Chicago Bulls), Dominique Wilkins (assistant coach, Atlanta Hawks) and Charles Barkley (assistant coach, Sixers).
Eventually, he also became one of ESPN’s first basketball analysts — a run in basketball that spanned more than 35 years.
So, in 2004, when a car crashed into the office of the car rental company I worked for, the game I loved -- the one I played in college, the one that put clothes on my back and food on my table as a child -- was stolen forever.
Or so I thought …
I’ll tell you the rest in the Heart of the City Podcast. I hope you will join me.